Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Joe's Crab Shack and Landry's Restaurants on behalf of a putative class of salaried employees of Joe's Crab Shack restaurants in California who were allegedly misclassified as exempt managerial/executive employees and unlawfully denied overtime pay. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss because plaintiffs failed to bring their suit to trial within five years. The court held that the appeal of the district court's remand order did not make it impracticable or futile to bring the case to trial within the statutory period; any delay in fully complying with the electronic discovery order did not make it impracticable or futile to bring the case to trial within the statutory period; and the court need not determine whether this court's writ review of the order compelling disclosure of putative class members' contact information made it impracticable or futile to bring the case to trial within the statutory period. View "Martinez v. Landry's Restaurants, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Labor Commissioner issued an award of $81,565.34 in favor of Burkes, an employee of Robertson’s business, for unpaid overtime wages, penalties, and interest. Robertson filed a timely pro se notice of appeal in the Solano County Superior Court but failed to post a statutorily required appeal bond or cash deposit in the amount of the award within the time provided (Lab. Code 98.2(b). He subsequently requested a waiver of the requirement, alleging indigency. The trial court found Robertson’s failure to request a waiver before the deadline for filing a section 98.2 notice of appeal deprived it of jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal. The court of appeal affirmed. A section 98.2 notice of appeal is the statutory prerequisite for obtaining a trial de novo in superior court; although an appeal and trial de novo are distinct concepts, in this context the terms are often used interchangeably. Even if the jurisdictional undertaking requirement did affect the availability of the trial de novo process for employers, it does not deprive the employer of a full and fair opportunity to be heard on a wage claim. The primary process for deciding wage claims is not the trial de novo but the administrative procedure reflected in section 98. View "Burkes v. Robertson" on Justia Law

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Labor Code section 226.2, effective January 1, 2016, addresses the compensation of piece-rate employees for rest and recovery periods and other nonproductive time on the job (rest/NP time). Subdivision (b) provides a safe harbor for an employer that, before 2016, failed to properly compensate piece-rate workers for rest/NP time; an employer that pays its employees for previously unpaid rest/NP time accrued between July 1, 2012 and December 31, 2015, is entitled to “an affirmative defense to any claim . . based solely on the employer’s failure to timely pay the employee the compensation due for [rest/NP time] . . . for time periods prior to and including December 31, 2015.” In 2014, Lainez filed suit on behalf of himself and others, against Jackpot, which performs harvesting and farming activities. Lainez alleged that Jackpot compensated him on a piece-rate basis and sought unpaid minimum wages for rest/NP time, interest, liquidated damages, and statutory penalties. Six months later, section 226.2 became law. Jackpot complied with section 226.2(b) by making back payments to Lainez and 1,138 other current and former employees. The superior court denied Jackpot summary judgment, concluding that the statutory language was unclear and does not provide a defense for claims accruing before July 2012. The court of appeal concluded that under the statute's unambiguous language, an employer complying with the statute has an affirmative defense against any employee claims for rest/NP time accruing before and including December 31, 2015. View "Jackpot Harvesting Co. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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AC operates transit buses in and around Alameda County. Bus routes range from 15 minutes to over an hour, with a small recovery time scheduled at the end of each route, which may not be available depending on whether the driver is running on schedule. Drivers can be behind the wheel for up to 10 hours a shift. AC operated 695 buses; only 20 percent were air-conditioned. In 2007, the Department of Industrial Relation’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health cited AC for violations of California Code of Regulations, title 8 section 3395 with respect to the buses: failure to supply adequate drinking water to drivers; failure to make shade continuously available for drivers; and failure to develop heat illness procedures and related training for employees and supervisors. The standards apply to “outdoor” places of employment. The Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board affirmed an ALJ's dismissal of the violations. The trial court ordered the Board to reconsider. The court of appeal agreed, reasoning that the trial court’s broader construction of section 3395 is well-supported by the regulation's language and related regulatory history and comports with the underlying purpose of the entire statutory scheme: the achievement of safe working environments. View "California Department of Industrial Relations v. AC Transit" on Justia Law

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Employees of WinCo Foods, LLC and/or WinCo Holdings, Inc. (collectively WinCo) were undisputedly subject to a collective bargaining agreement which purported to provide that an employee who worked a shift of less than six hours was not entitled to a meal break. The Employees filed this action claiming, among other things, that WinCo was violating Labor Code section 512(a), which provided that an employee who worked more than five hours was entitled to a meal break, “except that if the total work period per day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employer and employee.” The trial court ruled that the collective bargaining agreement waived the Employees’ statutory right to a meal break whenever they worked more than five but not more than six hours. The Employees appealed, arguing the trial court erred because the waiver in the collective bargaining agreement was not “clear and unmistakable,” as required by federal law. The Court of Appeal held the waiver was clear and unmistakable, because it specifically mentioned meal breaks and it was irreconcilable with the statutory right to a meal break during a shift of more than five but not more than six hours. View "Ehret v. WinCo Foods, LLC" on Justia Law

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Lacagnina worked for Comprehend as vice president of business development, 2012-2013, when he was “abruptly” terminated. Lacgnina claims that he was fraudulently induced to enter into an employment agreement with Comprehend by false representations made to him by its founders, Morrison and Gardner. A jury awarded Lacagnina a total of $556,446 in damages, including $226,446 in damages for fraud and $75,000 for emotional distress. The court granted the defendants judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the fraud claim on the ground that Lacagnina was not damaged by the alleged fraud, and entered an amended judgment of $255,000. The court of appeal reversed in part. An employer who induces an employee to enter into an employment contract by intentionally promising compensation terms the employer never intended to honor may not avoid tort liability for fraudulent inducement of contract based on the contract’s inclusion of an “at-will’ provision that allows the employer to fire the employee at any time for any reason. The court rejected Lacagnina’s contention that an employee who recovers a judgment against an employee for lost compensation has suffered a “theft” of “labor” for which he is entitled to recover treble damages and attorneys’ fees under Penal Code Section 496(c). View "Lacagnina v. Comprehend Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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When an employee resigns without notice, California law requires the employer to pay all wages within 72 hours (Lab. Code 202(a)1). If the employer willfully fails to do so, the employee’s wages continue as a penalty from that due date until the wages are paid, for up to 30 days. Nishiki resigned by sending an email to the partners in the law firm where she worked at 6:38 p.m. on Friday, November 14, noting that her unused vacation time “needs to be paid within 72 hours.” The firm mailed her a handwritten check on November 18: the amount in numerals was “2,880.31,” the correct amount, but it was spelled out as “Two thousand eight hundred and 31/100.” On November 26, Nishiki sent an email stating she had been unable to deposit the check because of the inconsistency and asserting she was entitled to waiting time penalties. A corrected check was mailed on December 5. Nishiki filed a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner seeking vacation wages, rest period premiums, and waiting time penalties. She prevailed on her claim for waiting time penalties and was awarded $4,250. The superior court affirmed and awarded Nishiki $86,160 in attorney fees. The court of appeal reduced the award of waiting time penalties but otherwise affirmed. Nishiki’s daily wage was $250. The proper waiting time penalty for nine days was, therefore, $2,250. View "Nishiki v. Danko Meredith, APC" on Justia Law

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Larry Tripplett, a former defensive tackle for the Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, petitioned for review of the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board’s (WCAB) decision to deny his claim for worker’s compensation for cumulative injuries he suffered during his career. Tripplett’s primary contention was that the WCAB erred because he satisfied his evidentiary burden of proving he was hired by the Indianapolis Colts in California for purposes of Labor Code sections 3600.5(a), and 53051, and thus was eligible for workers compensation under California law. Although the workers compensation judge (WCJ) found jurisdiction was established by the fact Tripplett’s agent had “negotiated” his contract with Indianapolis while located in California, the WCAB reversed, suggesting instead the salient question in assessing whether Tripplett was “hired” in California was whether he or his agent executed the written employment agreement in this state. The California Court of Appeal agreed with the WCAB that Tripplett was hired when he executed the written employment agreement offered by Indianapolis. Tripplett thus failed to satisfy his burden of proving he was hired in California. Tripplett also claimed the WCAB erred by concluding there was no other basis for establishing subject matter jurisdiction over his cumulative injury claim. He argued his residency in the state, combined with his participation in two games in California during his career, demonstrated he had a greater than de minimus contact with the State of California. The Court of Appeal found no merit to this contention: Tripplett’s residency in California provided no basis for establishing subject matter jurisdiction over his injury, and the WCAB did not err in concluding that his participation in two games in California, out of more than 100 in his career, reflected no significant connection between this state and his cumulative injury. View "Tripplett v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Bd." on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue the Court of Appeal was asked to determine whether a state entity whose employees were exempt from state law requiring the payment of overtime compensation was nevertheless required to pay overtime compensation to such employees when the state entity jointly employed the employees with a non-state employer. Although the Court concluded in a prior appeal in this case that the matter should have been remanded to the trial court to permit the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to attempt to state a cause of action premised on such a theory, the Court now concluded such a cause of action would not be legally viable. Furthermore, the Court concluded the law-of-the-case doctrine did not require the Court reverse the trial court's order sustaining a demurrer to the plaintiffs' second amended complaint. View "Moreles v. 22nd District Agricultural Assn." on Justia Law

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Augustine Caldera was a correctional officer at a state prison with a stutter. The prison’s employees mocked or mimicked Caldera’s stutter at least a dozen times over a period of about two years. Sergeant James Grove, a supervisor, participated in the mocking and mimicking of Caldera’s stutter. Such conduct reflected the prison’s culture, according to a senior prison official. Caldera sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and Grove (collectively defendants) for disability harassment, failure to prevent the harassment, and related claims. A jury found the harassment to be both severe and pervasive and awarded Caldera $500,000 in noneconomic damages. The trial court found the damage award to be excessive and granted defendants’ motion for a new trial solely as to that issue. Defendants appealed and Caldera cross-appealed. Defendants claimed there was insufficient evidence the harassment was either severe or pervasive. Defendants also claimed the trial court committed two instructional and one evidentiary error. The Court of Appeal found substantial evidence to support the jury’s factual findings. The Court of Appeal also found no prejudicial instructional errors and the claimed evidentiary error was forfeited. Caldera claimed the trial court failed to file a timely statement of reasons after granting defendants’ motion for a new trial. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed, and reversed the trial court’s new trial order as to the damage award. In all other respects, the judgment was affirmed. View "Caldera v. Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation" on Justia Law